An open letter to the boy who unabashedly used the word “faggot” and then asked me to explain to him why that was offensive #NoBystanders

This is a post inspired by Stonewall’s #NoBystanders, a campaign that encourages people to confront bullying. For more information, go to http://nobystanders.org.uk/

Hi.

First of all, apologies for not giving you a proper explanation when you asked me why I was offended, I guess I was just taken aback. I couldn’t articulate a response in that moment. I couldn’t educate you at the expense of my own self-preservation. I was hurt. Even though what you said wasn’t directed at me, I was hurt. I think I managed to splutter the words “Because it’s rude!” before I shuffled out, staring at my feet on the freshly-vacuumed floor.

Of course, this is not the only time that this has happened to me. I hear these words all the time. I think the reason why I’ve singled you out, singled out this encounter, was because you felt you needed an explanation from me. Well, here it is.

I was offended because I am gay. I was offended because when I hear words like that, for a split second I stop and think “Am I safe here?”. “Am I welcome here?”. I check myself. I feel more hesitant to be myself in public. It takes a lot to be confident and unashamed, and when I’m in an environment in which I hear that kind of language, I don’t hold my head as high. I’m more trepidatious to come out, I’m more likely to hide the cover of a book I’m reading from view if it’s about gay issues. I’ll say I’m going to “youth club” instead of to “gay club”. I internalize it, basically.

I was offended because in the year 2014, the implication that somebody is gay should not be an insult. The words “gay” and “stupid” are not interchangeable. I was offended because when slurs such as “faggot”, “queer”, “dyke”, “tranny” are in common usage, it grants complicity to people who actually commit violence against the gay community. When those people hear that language normalized, it allows them to justify their actions. It incites hatred.

I was offended because thousands of hate crimes are perpetrated against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) people every year, and you still ask me why you should have to change the offensive language that you use.

And ultimately, I was offended even though that insult wasn’t directed towards me. When you see that other people are being sworn at and mocked and the reason for it is because they are (or are perceived to be) like you, it’s dehumanizing. It diminishes your integrity and your sense of self-worth.

I was offended. Shouldn’t that be enough?